FIRSTE program for young women set for May 10 to 11

May 02, 2011

The 19th annual Females Interested in Reaching for Science, Technology and Engineering (FIRSTE) program is set for Tuesday and Wednesday, May 10 and 11, at Penn State New Kensington. Supported by grants from the Bozzone Foundation, PPG Industries, and Medrad, FIRSTE is a two-day summer program that targets potential college-bound ninth-through-11th-grade girls who are considering a career in science, technology or engineering.

The object of the program is to foster involvement of girls in these traditionally male fields by reaching them during the career-formative years of high school. The program aims to allay the concerns of young women and to give them career options.

"Making a decision about career choices or areas of academic study in science and engineering can be overwhelming to high school students," said Tracie Brockhoff, co-director of the program and equipment specialist in the campus' biology and chemistry departments. "The program exposes the girls to many potential career fields in science and engineering so that they can eliminate choices and focus on what appeals to them."

Although women have made great strides in many career fields, they still lag far behind men in engineering. According to a study presented in the National Center for Education Statistics report from August 2000, the percentage of women enrolled in engineering and engineering technology programs at the baccalaureate level is 17 percent. Minorities account for an even smaller percentage.

Twelve females from high schools in Allegheny, Butler, Indiana, Armstrong and Westmoreland counties are selected each year for the program on the basis of their application and their intellectual curiosity.

"The program brings together females who develop and sustain a sense of support for one another," said Joan Kowalski, senior instructor in engineering at the New Kensington campus. "They share concerns, fears and uncertainties surrounding these nontraditional careers."

The curriculum focuses on computer-based design, practical laboratory applications and technical report writing as a means of introduction to the engineering and science fields. Students are provided with meals and are housed at the Nittany Apartments that are adjacent to the campus.

"Science and engineering are exciting and interesting to women on a multitude of levels," Brockhoff said. "Through FIRSTE, students experience a variety of science and engineering concepts to determine what fields of study interest them and what fields do not."

Since its inception in 1993, FIRSTE has provided 146 participants with a variety of skills to enhance their opportunity for success in the engineering and science.

The program is co-sponsored by Society for Analytical Chemists of Pittsburgh, American Nuclear Society - Pittsburgh Section, and Penn State Division of Undergraduate Studies, College of Engineering.

For more information about the FIRSTE program, contact Brockhoff at 724-334-6742 or, or Kowalski at 724-334-6732 or
For more on the FIRSTE program, visit online.


(Media Contacts)

Last Updated May 03, 2011